Learn this Before you Start Deadlifting.
The Barbell Deadlift is an advanced exercise, but having been popularised by modern fitness trends, it's being performed more and more frequently by even novice gym users - often very badly. Just like the Barbell Back Squat, it's a common feature of 'exercise fail' videos, as a quick browse online will confirm.
Before Deadlifting, you should consider whether the exercise is essential for your goals. If these include absolute strength, Powerlifting, or functional performance for certain sports, then Barbell Deadlifts may form a useful part of your strength and conditioning programme. If you are simply looking to build some muscle, firm up or get a little stronger, then you should consider other variants of the exercise using kettlebells or dumbbells, which offer less risk of injury if you get them wrong; because the Barbell Deadlift is one exercise you really need to get right!
An essential skill to master before attempting any Deadlift is the Hip Hinge. This is the ability to flex forward by using hip flexion, and a little knee flexion, whilst maintaining a neutral spine and your centre of gravity over the mid-foot. It is a difficult move to learn, especially if you are new to strength training, and requires careful coaching to break the habitual motor patterns of bending or stooping forward when we pick up an object from the ground. It differs from the Squat movement though, which involves more relative knee flexion than the Hip Hinge
The Hip Hinge is also a prerequisite to movements like the Bent Over Row, the Kettlebell Swing, and other hip-dominant exercises. It is an essential skill to master for anyone that takes their strength training seriously.
In the video below, I demonstrate the Hip Hinge movement during a Romanian Kettlebell Deadlift (or hip-dominant Deadlift). During the lift, the spine remains neutral, while the hamstrings and the glutes, which form part of the posterior chain, become the main movers during the lift. If you are unable to engage these muscles, and feel them working during such a movement with a light load, then you need to work with a trainer to iron out any mobility or muscle activation issues before you learn the Deadlift.
Thanks for reading.